The ever elusive nature of what it takes to be an outstanding improvisor in jazz has beguiled even the greatest among those who have sought to achieve prominence in the idiom. Yet the music's inherent challenges and complexities are some of the very things that have compelled saxophonist Joshua Redman towards excellence.
A multifaceted stylist whose signature sound manifests itself in a vast repertoire of sonic expression, Redman's approach to his instrument is equal parts grit, exuberance, and spontaneity. His inquisitive, analytical nature is evidenced in his deeply personal solos, but never at the expense of gleefully disonant exploration.
Born in Berkeley, California, Redman moved to Brooklyn immediately after college, honed his already considerable skills in New York City, and won the 1991 Thelonious Monk International Saxophone Competition. He toured and performed with some stellar musical associates during this particularly rich foundational period, sharing the bandstand with Pat Metheny, Jack DeJohnette, Charlie Hayden, Elvin Jones, and Paul Motian, among others.
Redman began a seven year stint as Artistic Director of SFJAZZ in 2000, which soon gave rise to the earliest iteration of the SF Jazz Collective, an all-star aggregation whose emphasis was as much on the new compositions crafted by its members as on touring and recording.
"Nearness", Redman's duo project with pianist Brad Mehldau, was recorded live on tour in Europe and garnered a 2016 Grammy nomination for Best Jazz Instrumental Album. The two-instrument configuration allowed the saxophonist considerable room to stretch out and explore, and his singular voice rings clearly and passionately here.
Redman's most recent recording, "Still Dreaming" (Nonesuch Records), is scheduled for release next month. The project is a fresh take on the "Old and New Dreams" band that was composed of musicians who previously worked with Ornette Coleman and made music together from 1976-1987. Ron Miles (trumpet), Scott Cooley (bass), and Brian Blade (drums) are featured alongside Redman on the recording. The group toured together last year, giving both long time fans and curious neophytes an early introduction to this new and exciting band.
When all is said and done, Joshua Redman continues to push past the boundaries and expectations that often impede even the most seasoned artists. His quest to develop and articulate his passionate, unique sonic ideas will continue to flourish, clear evidence of an uncompromising creative spirit who can enable even the most elusive musical dreams to become reality.
Ricardo Burke is a Brooklyn, NY based writer and lover of jazz, cinema and art.